Propagandroid's old school new school 4e dragon special

In the comments to the last blogpost, Propagandroid set down the challenge of creating an old-school style statblock for a Fourth Edition dragon. And here it is in the form of an Adult Black Dragon!

This was real easy to do; it’s just a matter of cutting through 4e’s impersonal style and replacing it with something that’s more conversational in tone. I can understand why WoTC have formalized their statblocks and given keywords to damned near everything. 30 years of players asking the most idiotic questions (“Can a fireball light a candle? There’s nothing in the rules which say it can!”) will do that to any company. We’ve only got ourselves to blame.

Me, I would kill for an old-school designed Monster Manual for Fourth Edition. Give me black and white illustrations, statblocks like the one below but 4e’s ultra-easy customisation and ruleset, and I reckon it would be the best of all worlds.

So, without further ado, I give you………..

Adult Black Dragon
Armor Class: 28, Resist 20 acid
Level: 11 Solo Lurker (560 hp)
Speed: 8 (40′), flying 8, swim 8, +15 initiative
Attacks: Bite +16 / 2 Claws +16, and special
Damage: Bite 1d8+4 and ongoing 5 acid / Claw 1d6+4, and see below
Saves: Fortitude 24, Reflex 26, Will 23
Skills: Nature +13, Perception +13, Stealth +21
Intelligence: 14
Alignment: Evil
XP Value: 3,000

Monster Type: Large natural magical beast (aquatic, dragon)

Black Dragons are malicious beasts that disgorge acid. They primarily lurk in fell swamps but are also drawn to places with strong ties to the Shadowfell.

Their Claw and Bite attacks have a 10′ reach, as does their long tail which they can use as an immediate reaction against any foe who misses with their attack. This is +16 to hit, does 1d8+6 damage and pushes the opponent 5′ backward.

An Adult Black Dragon’s breath weapon is a blast of acid. This covers a 25′ area, is +13 to hit vs. Reflex for 2d8+3 damage. Anyone hit by the blast takes ongoing 5 acid damage and is at -4 to AC. A save ends both conditions. The breath attack recharges on 5-6 and immediately when the Black Dragon is at half hit points.

Black Dragons can also create a Cloud of Darkness. This covers a 10′ radius centred on the dragon which effectively blinds foes within and blocks line of site (the dragon itself is, of course, immune to this effect). It can maintain the darkness as a minor action, and it recharges on a 4-6.

Once per encounter a Black Dragon can cow foes with it’s Frightful Presence. This covers a 25′ radius originating from the dragon and is +13 vs. Will. Anyone hit is Stunned until the end of the dragon’s next turn and at -2 to attack for the remainder of the battle (save ends).

(All copyright Wizards of the Coast, of course!)

I’ve got rid of a few things – the Bloodied keyword for one. It is really that hard to say “half hit points”? I’ve also replaced the ranges with real honest-to-goodness Feet rather than Squares because, y’know, I can divide by five, and this makes the game feel more “in your head” gamey rather than boardgamey. Just do that one thing and suddenly the feeling that you need to use minis and a battlemat to play the game disappears.

Old school feel, new school rules. I love it.


10 Comments on “Propagandroid's old school new school 4e dragon special”

  1. Hi Greywulf,

    Sorry to comment something not related to your post itself, but how is progressing that Sunless Citadel 4e conversion you have been making?

    Do you need any help to finish it?

  2. @Paulo Thanks for asking! It unfortunately fell into the Pile of Things Not Done due to my group moving onto other things instead.

    You’re more than welcome to take it and carry it on. In fact, please do – it’s not something I’m likely to return to any time soon though I would love to see it’s completion.

  3. Thx man!!!

    What still needs to be done in the conversion???

    Now that we have Player’s handbook and monster’s manual II, I will look for the Belak as Druid, and the other monster’s who didn’t appear in MM I.

  4. @Paulo Just Treasure placement, if I remember rightly. If you want I can take a look over the weekend and see if I can pull everything together for you :D

  5. I’ll take the newfangled stat-blocks with the old-style flavor text with black and white drawings (preferably by Erol Otus, Jim Rosloff or Jeff Dee) in my Monster Manual.

  6. It’s great to see this comparison between old and new statblocks… it shows that different formatting makes a great difference.
    However, I really prefer the 4E way. Easier to use, faster to look during combat, and takes less space on the page (the less pages I have to turn when using a monster the better). The monster manual would be just perfect if it had bigger fluff texts for some monsters – not even all of them, as a picture of a Grell and the words “underdark predator” are all that I need about him…
    I also find the Bloodied status one of the best additions to the game… we don’t imagine any more a monster badly hurt taking more and more damage until he collapses.
    And perhaps it’s because I use the metric system, but I really hated distances in feet. I still look forward to the day they realize 5 foot is too much and reduce the standard distance to exactly 1 meter, no multiplication involved… But squares is still way better than feet, or even than the equivalent 1,5m.

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